Ostara is coming up-one of the eight holidays that Pagans and Wiccans celebrate in the wheel of the year. Let’s take a moment and learn a little about one of my favorite holidays!
Who does Ostara Celebrate?
The German goddess Eostre gave her name to both the month of the Spring Equinox before the switch to the Gregorian Calendar as well as the holiday. However, there is actually very little known about her. Her first mention comes from a monk named Bede in 725. He tells us that the Pagans celebrated feasting in her honor during this month (Eosturmonap). Little is known about what she is the goddess of, and it isn’t until the early 1800s that she becomes associated with spring, eggs or rabbits.
Where do the eggs come in?
There is a beautiful bit of folklore from the Ukraine that explains this and the tradition of Pysanky. Eostre saves a bird by transforming it into a rabbit. In thanks, the rabbit lays, decorates, and gifts the eggs to Eostre.
So where did this holiday come from?
It wasn’t until Gardner created his wheel of the year that Eostre became associated with the Spring Equinox and that the equinox gained the name of Ostara.
That isn’t to say there was no one observing the Equinox…
While the worship of Eostre and Ostara is modern, worship of the Vernal Equinox is not. Cultures all over the world have monoliths that do unique things only at the equinox. The Mayan El Castillo pyramid features a shadow serpent being created on this day and goes up the pyramid’s steps. At Spout Run Paleoindian site in Clark County, VA a 12,000 year old site has a place in it’s rock triangle and rings formations that if stood upon during the equinox will create a halo affect around the person standing there. These are just two examples of sites from our history that relate to the equinoxes. While we cannot determine exactly what they were used for, we know that the equinoxes played an important role in the construction of these sites.
What did they observe, then?
didn’t celebrate Ostara. They celebrated Alban Eiler or “Light of the
Earth”. This is the day in which the first crops were to be sown and was
the beginning of the transition into the light half of the year.
-Bacchanalia is held in March and is sacred to Bacchus/Dionysus. The celebration had very little do with the equinox itself-rather it was about wine and pleasure. The Bacchanlias could also run into violence as there are accounts of murder taking place during the wildest orgies.
So what does all this mean?
It means that Ostara is a modern holiday. We don’t know what the ancient worship of Eostre was like we can worship her during Ostara just fine. We know that the Equinox was important to ancient peoples. For those of us that practice ancestor worship, we may wish to celebrate Ostara under the name of the Spring/Vernal Equinox. Those of us looking for a more Celtic or Roman spin on the holiday have options as well.
Quick Witchcraft Tip
Now that we know a little bit about Ostara, lets get started on some magick! It’s quick and easy to create your own magickal eggs. All you need is either one of the dying kits stores sell this time of year, or simply a marker and some eggs! I even found some plastic black ones in the dollar bin at Target.
Now, think about what you want to grow this year. This is the last real planting hurrah of the the year, so make use of this crazy growth magick. Once you have listed out your intentions for the eggs come up with symbols, sigils, etc. to represent them. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest artist. I have a picture of one of mine below.
Once finished, it’s time to fill the eggs with your intent. Hold the eggs in your hands and imagine yourself doing, having, or being whatever it is that you want to grow. Imagine it filling up the egg with light until it’s ready to burst forth. The more realistic the vision, the stronger the egg will be.
To activate the spell, bury it somewhere near your dwelling under a plant or plant one on top of it. If you are an apartment dweller like myself, potted plants work wonders. Another option if you have a black thumb is to cook with them feeling the power and intent you put in the egg fill you up as you consume it.